Yellow Ribbon Program participants on the rise

Financial Aid Assistant Jennifer Zide has the Veterans Affairs’ number on her office phone’s speed dial.

“I talk with the Buffalo (N.Y.) office at least once a week so I definitely use that button,” she says.

With the steady increase in veterans deciding to attend Marietta College, Zide oftentimes is the direct connection between the student and understanding the benefits that he or she is eligible for through the VA.

“I love my job,” she says. “I think these students are so awesome. I really enjoy hearing their stories of service and I think it’s important to help these veterans with the transition from soldier to student.”

Veterans who have served after Sept. 10, 2001, are eligible to receive benefits through either the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill or the Yellow Ribbon Program, which was created in 2009. Depending on the length of active duty, the Post-9/11 program pays a percentage of the veteran’s college tuition. In the Yellow Ribbon Program, the veteran receives a percentage of the tuition paid for by the participating college or university and the VA matches that contribution. Both benefits are transferable to a veteran’s dependents. Currently there are 13 students using the Yellow Ribbon credits.

“For the Yellow Ribbon Program, the VA roughly pays three-fourths of the cost of fees and tuition, and the College picks up the remaining quarter,” says Kevin Lamb, Director of Student Financial Services. “For Marietta’s portion, we use different institutional resources such as specific scholarships, merit-based scholarships or need-based scholarships.”

Blaze Rogers ’13 (New Matamoras, Ohio) is one of more than a dozen veterans on campus who are adjusting to life as full-time college students. The history major began taking classes last year, shortly after he returned from a tour of duty in the Middle East.

“Being in the military has been a great experience so far,” he says. He and a friend decided to enter the military after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. As soon as he graduated from high school in 2002, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and served for four years as an infantry rifleman. He was assigned to places such as Spain, Cuba, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait. In 2005 he went to Iraq. He earned the rank of Corporal by the time his commitment was finished.

“I really enjoyed my time in the military so when I was finished I came back to this area and enlisted in the Army National Guard,” he says. At the end of 2008, he volunteered to be deployed to Afghanistan to aid in the War on Terror. He returned from his seven-month deployment at the end of July 2009.

Rogers says without the Yellow Ribbon Program, he would not be able to attend Marietta College. He hopes to have a career in the military after graduation and continues to serve in the National Guard.

Dagny Butler ’14 (Hannibal, Ohio) came to Marietta to pursue a second career. Having served in the U.S. Air Force for 20 years, she retired with the rank of Master Sergeant E-7 and is benefiting from the Yellow Ribbon Program.

“I’ve been stationed at eight different bases,” she says. “I was in Pakistan at the start of Operation Enduring Freedom and I was stationed state-side during the Gulf War.”

On Sept. 11, 2001, she was at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri. “We automatically went into lock down and my job was to get people ready to deploy. That was how I spent much of my career—sending personnel and cargo to where they were needed.”

When her husband retired from the Air Force, the couple moved to his hometown in Hannibal, Ohio. She commutes to campus. She is originally from Missouri but has been stationed in England, Germany, Korea and Pakistan.

“I want to be a teacher,” she says. “I enlisted in 1989 because where I was at the time didn’t offer much for me. My dream before I went into the service was to be a teacher. I’m just picking up that dream right now and trying to adjust to the dynamics in the classroom.”